Blood Pressure Medication Side Effects

As we get older, many people find that they are taking an increasing number of medications with blood pressure medications being some of the most common. Unfortunately, all medications come with some risks. While blood pressure medication side effects may be mild, there are some more serious concerns to be aware of.

Caucasian doctor talking to patient in office
Terry Vine / Getty Images

Benefits and Risks of Blood Pressure Medication

Blood pressure medications help control your blood pressure levels. This reduces the risk of serious health concerns such as:

  • Stroke, or a condition that happens when blood flow is reduced or blocked
  • Heart disease, a term that describes conditions that impact the heart
  • Heart attack, or when a part of the heart doesn't get enough blood and becomes damaged

It's important to take your medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Not following medication instructions exactly can lead to severe health concerns.

Because all drugs have the potential for side effects, speak with your healthcare provider about risks and any other questions you may have.

Your healthcare provider will tell you two numbers for your blood pressure reading. If the first number is above 130 and the second number is 80 or higher, you have high blood pressure.

Diuretics

Thiazide diuretics such as chlorthalidone and other diuretics help control high blood pressure by encouraging your body to excrete excess water and sodium. They also can reduce your amount of body potassium. Eating a diet rich in this essential mineral, taking supplements or switching to a potassium-sparing kind may help.

Side effects of diuretics may include:

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

Avapro (irbesartan), and other angiotensin II receptor blockers, alleviate high blood pressure by allowing your arteries to relax and widen. Side effects are most likely to occur with a change in dosage, which could be prescribed or induced when you take it irregularly or not as directed.

Taking additional medications, from your healthcare professional or ones you bought at the drug store, including supplements, can trigger a variety of side effects.

Side effects may include:

Keep in mind that ARBs should not be taken during pregnancy.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Procardia (nifedipine) and other calcium channel blockers ease hypertension and reduce your heart rate by preventing calcium from entering the muscles of your heart and arteries. This allows them to relax and widen.

Side effects may include:

This drug can interact with other medications, including beta-blockers, drugs that treat irregular heartbeats, and ACE inhibitors. Drug interactions can impact how effective medications are and can also cause side effects.

Beta-Blockers

Toprol-XL (metoprolol succinate), and other beta-blockers reduce your heart rate, which in turn decreases your heart's output and blood pressure.

Side effects may include:

  • Cold hands and feet, especially in older individuals
  • Intense dreams
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness when you get up from a sitting or laying position

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors

ACE inhibitors, such as Lotensin (benazepril hydrochloride) and Prinivel (lisinopril), relax, or open up, the blood vessels. This helps lower your blood pressure.

ACE inhibitors can lead to side effects like:

ACE inhibitors can cause serious issues during pregnancy. Speak with your healthcare provider immediately if you may be pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant and are taking this medication.

Summary

Blood pressure medications help keep your blood pressure levels within a healthy range. However, medications can come with side effects that range from mild to more serious.

Ask your healthcare provider if there are other medications that will work for you if your current medication is causing side effects. If you must stay on your current medications, ask if you can take them on a different schedule to see if that helps.

Never stop using medication or change your dosage without consulting your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which high blood pressure medication has the least side effects?

    Research notes that ARBs tend to have less side effects compared to ACE inhibitors. Those taking ARBs tend to have a lower risk of developing a cough, skin swelling, digestive tract bleeding, and pancreas inflammation. Keep in mind that these should not be used during pregnancy.

  • Are blood pressure medications harmful?

    Blood pressure drugs help decrease the risk of serious conditions. For the majority of people, blood pressure medications do not lead to any side effects. Some people may experience side effects, but these tend to be mild.

  • What are long term side effects of blood pressure medication?

    Research that examined animals and humans noted that long term use of blood pressure medications like ACE inhibitors and ARBs may be linked to kidney damage. However, more research is needed.

  • What are the safest blood pressure medications?

    Calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, and diuretics are generally considered first-line treatment options. Research supports that their safety and effectiveness is very similar, with certain diuretics considered only slightly safer than the other classes of drugs.

Was this page helpful?
15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Blood pressure medicines.

  2. American Heart Association. Medication adherence - taking your meds as directed.

  3. National Institute on Aging. High blood pressure and older adults.

  4. American Heart Association. Cardiac medications.

  5. Harvard Health Publishing. Tips for taking diuretic medications.

  6. Hill RD, Vaidya PN. Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARB, ARb). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

  7. Tazkarji B, Ganeshamoorthy A, Auten B. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors vs. angiotensin receptor blockersAFP. 2015;91(3):193-194.

  8. American Heart Association. Types of blood pressure medications.

  9. Texas Heart Institute. Calcium channel blockers.

  10. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Calcium channel blockers.

  11. British Heart Foundation. Beta blockers.

  12. Chen R, Suchard MA, Krumholz HM, et al. Comparative first-line effectiveness and safety of ace (Angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers: a multinational cohort studyHypertension. 2021;78(3):591-603. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.120.16667

  13. Watanabe H, Martini AG, Brown EA, et al. Inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system causes concentric hypertrophy of renal arterioles in mice and humansJCI Insight. 2021;6(24).

  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Effective diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of hypertension in primary care.

  15. Suchard MA, Schuemie MJ, Krumholz HM, et al. Comprehensive comparative effectiveness and safety of first-line antihypertensive drug classes: a systematic, multinational, large-scale analysisLancet. 2019;394(10211):1816-1826. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(19)32317-7